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Downtown Miami’s getting dedicated bus and bike lanes

It’s no secret that Downtown Miami’s experiencing an urban renaissance, but we’re still struggling with a street network that’s basically designed and built with the sole purpose of moving cars.

After over a year of planning, design, and coordination with partner agencies, the Miami Downtown Development Authority is making strides to fulfill Miami’s commitment to Complete Streets — one that would involve changing the SE/SW 1st Street corridor (between SW 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard) to include a red bus lane and a green bike lane.

Looking to cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for inspiration, the pilot project is designed to create dedicated spaces for cyclists, pedestrians, and mass transit in the downtown area, which has seen a population surge of 150 percent since 2010 and is now home to over 90,000 urbanites.

“Downtown Miami has experienced explosive growth over the past 10 years, and while this momentum has brought the urban core to life – it has also magnified the reality that our city is growing faster than its infrastructure has kept up,” said Miami Downtown Development Authority executive director Alyce Robertson.

Complete Streets is a design approach to street planning and design that enables convenient and comfortable travel for everyone — no matter their age, income, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or method of travel. The nationwide initiative has strong support and policies in place across 50 states and 955 individual municipalities. Research has found this approach brings benefits like positive environmental impact, greater local economic development, and improvements to physical health. “It’s a concept about streets being for everyone, no matter your ability, age or how you travel,” said Fabian De La Espriella, an urban designer and transportation planning manager with the Miami DDA.

Other cities have adopted Complete Streets initiatives and implemented dedicated transit lanes and traffic calming measures to self-enforce driving behavior and make streets accessible to all users. The crazy idea: actually provide people the spaces to move safely around their neighborhoods, and they’ll do it.

Starting the third week of June, roadwork will start taking place for approximately six weeks to remove current striping and add new paint to transform the street into a multimodal corridor. Tentative completion is projected for the end of July, and at no point will the entire street be closed off to traffic.

De La Espriella said SE/SW 1st was considered low hanging fruit to implement a complete street because it is a street that is currently underutilized when compared to its capacity. The road was built to carry way more cars per day than currently use it, which means that it can be transformed without creating traffic delays. “You have the ability to repurpose space on the street and to accommodate other users without affecting existing traffic patterns,” he said.

It’s the first of its kind in Downtown Miami, which is a big deal. The initiative has been a collaborative approach between the Miami DDA, Miami-Dade County, and the City of Miami, along with support from the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) and the Health Foundation of South Florida.

De La Espriella said there’s sometimes initial hesitation to roadwork, but the benefits surpass the temporary disturbance. “People like spending time in places that are more walkable. Businesses end up opening up to the street, vacancy rates decrease — It’s a proven cycle.”

By WhereBy.Us Creative Studio
The WhereBy.Us Creative Studio helps clients big and small engage locals, through campaigns that use creative marketing, storytelling, events, and activations to build community, conversation, and impact.

  • JOE

    I experienced this idiotic concept today which is creating more traffic rather than alleviating the problem.It took over 30 minutes to drive 6 blocks on 1st Street. I live downtown and walk or use the Metromover whenever possible. I avoid 1st Street because there is a large homeless population on the sidewalk behind Macy’s. I have also sidestepped junkies who have nodded out on the sidewalks.This is not encouraging for those thinking about paying high rent or purchasing condos. I have lived in downtown Los Angeles and Chicago. Downtown Miami is disgusting and unwalkable after dark. Patrons attending events downtown are not interested in riding public transportation and experiencing the grungier side of Miami. DDA is stealing taxpayer money.

  • Alexander Karavias

    Well, let’s not always be negative or look for the negative in every attempt by the DDA. I do agree and want to reiterate – the homeless and panhandler situation is the biggest threat to Downtown’s continuing to thrive. I wonder why we don’t see similar situations taking place in Brickell or Coral Gables, etc… There’s gotta a be a reason why.
    I do like the utilization of the street though to maximize its capacity. I am a business owner with a street front on SE 1st str. And I’d much rather have a dedicated bicycle and bus lane rather than seeing it as just a parking spot for a few of the same cars a day. All in all, if it will create more people traffic, it will be a good thing.
    Is there a source that we can get more details on the project?

  • Julia Poliadis

    We don’t have that much space on the street as it is. I wonder how this will all workout. I really hope it’s a solution to our traffic nightmares.

  • FJP88

    Notice how the number of cars in the second rendering have been greatly reduced, we would be told by the number of people walking, cycling instead of driving. Right, in 90F plus summer heat and monsoonal downpours Miamians are going to take to the streets with their bicycles and feet. Well intentioned but lacking a bit in ‘reality’ assessment. Need to find a way though; more electric circular riding buses with parking on the periphery of the CBD to start with.

    • BK

      C’mon, You and me both know nobody’s going to drive to the edge of downtown and catch a bus. You have to get people to leave their cars at home to reduce traffic. Especially since much of the downtown area traffic is people who live in the area! And have you been out to Miami Beach recently–fact is people DO walk and bike in the heat when provided a safe environment in which to do so (OK, more so in the early morning and evenings, but that also happens to be rush hour, so…). Lincoln Road probably has the greatest traffic volume of all surface roads in the County, and it’s pedestrian only.

  • Gabriel

    The DDA should focus on creating a safer and more welcoming env by taclking the homeless epidemic and improving lighting. Whats the point of creating these trans options if people are discouraged.

    Ps I live on west side of dda district